Those still waiting to receive their payments are worried that they aren’t getting paid at all, or they understand that they will eventually get their money but nonetheless are stressed because they have May bills due now.
So, why haven’t you gotten your payment yet?
Follow this timeline, which may help explain some — but not all — of the delays, hiccups and challenges in getting out more than 130 million stimulus payments in a matter of weeks. The rollout has been particularly confusing for Social Security recipients.
March 27: Congress passes the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and President Trump signs it. The Cares Act provides a $1,200 refundable tax credit for qualified individuals and $2,400 for qualified joint filers. There is an additional payment of $500 for every dependent child under 17.
Payment would be paid based on 2018 or 2019 tax returns.
The IRS said everyone would need to file a tax return to get a stimulus payment.
There was immediate backlash about the decision, because such a move might make it difficult for many Americans, including Social Security recipients, to get the $1,200, Washington Post economics correspondent Heather Long reported at the time.
More than 15 million Americans on Social Security do not file an annual tax return because their income is low, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
April 1: In a reversal, the IRS announces that it will issue automatic stimulus payments to Social Security recipients using the information on their Social Security 1099 (SSA-1099), which is a tax form that the Social Security Administration mails in January that shows the total amount of benefits received in the previous year. For Railroad Retirement benefits, the agency would use a similar form, RRB-1099. The forms were necessary, because many individuals receiving the benefits were not required to file a return for 2018 or 2019.
The IRS also says that because it is using the SSA and RRB 1099 forms, it will not have information about any dependents, so Social Security, survivor, disability and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will only be receiving the $1,200 per person, without the additional $500 per dependent under 17. (This would change later.)
In many of these cases, the IRS simply did not have tax information to immediately send out payments. Social Security, survivor, disability and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries were told that their payments would go out “in the near future.”
The IRS was still trying to figure out how to get automatic payments to another group of beneficiaries who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a needs-based program for people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or 65 or older. Blind or disabled children may also qualify for SSI. The money for this program comes from general tax revenue and not Social Security taxes. These recipients do not get an SSA-1099 form.
April 10: The IRS announces the launch of a new non-filers tool for people who don’t normally file a tax return. People in this group have to use the non-filer tool to enter payment information to get the stimulus funds. This includes individuals with a gross income of $12,200 or less and couples filing jointly whose income is less than $24,400.
The agency tries to make it clear that eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 will get their payment automatically and do not need to take any action.
The first wave of electronic payments would go to people who had received a refund for those years and — this is key — had their refund direct-deposited into a bank account.
The confusion about what bank information the IRS maintains has created a lot of angst and anger.
One reader wrote: “Just wonder if you can shed any light on this simple question: The IRS had enough bank account information to collect via a direct withdrawal the additional tax I owed on my 2019 return, so why don’t they have enough bank info to deposit my stimulus payment?”
The Cares Act did not allow the agency to use bank account information used to make tax payments — only those accounts associated with electronic deposits of refunds, according to IRS spokesman Eric Smith. But the agency didn’t make that clear enough for many Americans.
So it’s possible people waited to use the “Get My Payment” tool thinking the IRS had their banking information. This, in turn, may have added to the time to get their payment.
The IRS says it was exploring ways to send automatic payments to Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension beneficiaries, as well as SSI recipients who did not file a tax return for the 2018 or 2019 tax years. People in these groups were told that they could use the non-filer tool or wait as the agency reviewed automatic payment options.
This has been another source of confusion. SSI folks may have thought they were lumped in with other Social Security beneficiaries. They were not.
April 15: Payments go out to tens of millions of people, mainly those who filed a 2018 or 2019 federal return. This causes anxiety for millions more who do not get their payments.
The IRS announces that it can add recipients of SSI to the list of those automatically receiving economic impact payments.
The agency launches the “Get My Payment” tool to let taxpayers check on their stimulus payments and provide direct deposit information if they don’t want to wait for a check to be mailed.
Not wanting to wait for a check, Americans flock to the tool to authorize the IRS to send their stimulus payments electronically.
Glitches prevent many people from tracking their payments and putting in bank information to get their money electronically deposited into their accounts.
“My wife and I owed taxes last year and had the IRS deduct from our checking account,” one reader wrote. “When I first checked the status of our payment from the portal, it said something about status not available. A few days later when I checked again, it asked for my bank account information, which I input, but we are still waiting.”
The IRS moves the Department of Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension beneficiaries and SSI recipients into the automatic stimulus payment category. They now don’t have to use the non-filer tool, in another reversal.
However, they do have to take an extra step of using the non-filer tool if they don’t file a tax return and want to collect the $500 per dependent child under the age of 17.
April 20: The IRS announces that if Social Security, survivor and disability recipients and railroad retirees — and only this group — don’t act by noon April 22, they will not receive the $500 payments for dependent children. The agency says the deadline is necessary because it is about to send this group their $1,200 payments, and the funds for the children can’t be added once the money is processed.
April 24: The IRS issues an alert to SSI and VA benefit recipients with dependents under 17 who don’t file tax returns that they have a limited window — until May 5 — to act to claim the $500 payment.
April 26: The IRS makes improvements to the “Get My Payment” tool. Many people who were locked out or unable to enter banking information can successfully navigate the portal. Others, however, continue to complain that they can’t track their money or give the IRS their banking information, or that even after adding their direct deposit information, they still have to wait for a check to come in the mail.
Despite missteps, the IRS and Treasury report that 88 million individuals have received stimulus payments, even though the IRS is still not functioning at full capacity and is trying to manage returns and refunds for the 2020 tax season.
April 28: The IRS reminds low-income Americans to use the free non-filer tool. But community organizations are concerned that many won’t have Internet access or get the information they need to use the feature to get their stimulus payments.
Some folks who don’t have to file a federal return do so anyway in an effort to speed up their payments. However, that bars them from using the non-filer tool. And filing a return so late might slow the process of getting stimulus payments because the IRS has to process the return and then update its system to send the stimulus payment. Because of coronavirus shutdowns, the agency isn’t processing paper checks.
April 29: A Treasury spokeswoman says that those receiving Social Security, survivor and disability payments should receive their stimulus payments no later than April 29. But many people still did not get their money.
This is a small sample of the thousands of emails The Post has been receiving from people over the past few weeks, many to my inbox.
— “My wife and I have filed for 2018 and 2019. We are way under the limit for a couple filing jointly. I am receiving Social Security. As of May 3, we have not received a direct deposit to our account. By all accounts, we should have already received our deposit. I see nowhere we can inquire to the IRS about our status.”
— “I am on full disability. Why haven’t I received a stimulus check yet?”
— “I'm retired and so is my husband. We qualify for the payment but have neither received it nor heard that we will. The IRS site didn't help.”
— “I receive Social Security retirement by direct deposit. I did file federal income tax in 2019 and 2018. I do not have direct deposit info at the IRS, as I never get a refund.”
The IRS did not respond as to why payments were not made by the promised April 29 deadline. But here’s one explanation why some Social Security and railroad retirees have not gotten their payments yet.
If you receive Social Security and you filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019 — even if you were not required to — the IRS, in a rush to get payments out, may have defaulted to make your stimulus payment based on the filed return.
So it’s possible that your stimulus payment wasn’t made based on your status as receiving Social Security or railroad benefits but because the system pulled your filed tax return, according to Smith.
Stay with me here. If the IRS is using your 2018 or 2019 return and you didn’t owe any taxes or receive a refund, then the agency doesn’t have bank information for you. As a result, you will probably get a check unless you successfully used the “Get My Payment” tool.
This explanation does not apply to everyone, but it could explain the delay for some people who receive Social Security, Smith said.
Here’s yet another wrinkle. If you receive Railroad Retirement or Social Security, survivor or disability benefits and did not register your children on the non-filer tool, the deadline has passed to get the additional $500 per eligible child. You now have to wait until you file a return in 2021.
But some folks have complained that they met the deadline and still didn’t receive their $500 dependent child payments with their $1,200 checks.
By the way, If you did not receive the full amount to which you believe you are entitled, the IRS says you’ll also have to wait until 2021 to fix the problem.
May 1: The IRS puts out another announcement reminding VA and SSI recipients — and only this group — who didn’t file a 2018 or 2019 tax return that they have until May 5 to register to have $500 per eligible child added automatically to their soon-to-be-received $1,200 stimulus payment. If they miss this deadline, they will not get the extra $500 per child until they file a return in 2021.
The deadline for the $500 payments for the most vulnerable Americans is of considerable concern to Social Security and disability advocates. Because of stay-at-home orders and changing directions from the IRS, people have been confused about how to get their full payments, said Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate with Western Center on Law and Poverty in California.
“Those face-to-face interactions where we would normally give out information pertinent to the population from trusted, informed community allies is no longer an available channel of communication,” Bartholow said. “People don’t always know which [benefit] they are getting. It can be the matter of one letter in an acronym that can change which deadline applies to you.”
It may be that none of these explanations applies to why you have not received the stimulus money. And any reason — good or bad — doesn’t matter. You needed the money a week ago because you’re in a desperate financial situation.
“I have no dependents,” one reader wrote. “I haven’t filed taxes due to my health. I live on SSI. When do you think I will get my stimulus payment?”
The simple answer is that it’s very likely you have not received your money because the IRS is still scrambling to process payments.
Please join me on Thursday, May 7, at noon (Eastern time) for a live discussion about your money.
Reader Question of the Week
If you have a retirement question, send it to email@example.com. In the subject line, put “Question of the Week.”
The answers for this week’s reader questions come from Lynn Ballou and Erin Voisin, both certified financial planners and partners with California-based EP Wealth Advisors.
Q: In early January, we took 25 percent of the required minimum distribution (RMD), and again in early April. Since then, we’ve read that RMDs are optional this year and that we might be able to replace the amounts we’ve already taken. This would be good for us because we have other savings we could tap, and we’d rather not have to sell stocks in a bear market. What’s not clear: What are the required steps to return this money, and can the money we took more than 60 days ago be returned?
Ballou: Check with your IRA custodian to determine how to return the funds. Be sure to replace the entire gross distribution. If taxes were withheld, you’ll want to apply those to your return when you file your 2020 taxes.
Voisin: The IRS did extend the 60-day rollover period to July 15. But it only applies to any RMDs taken as of Feb 1.
Q: I am 60 and my husband is 61. I plan to take Social Security at 70, and my husband plans to take it at 66. When he turns 63, we are going to withdraw 4 percent from our IRAs to supplement our income. With the pandemic happening, would it be smarter to have him start taking Social Security at 63 and let our IRAs have more time to grow as our accounts have lost money?
Ballou: Possibly. It really depends on how quickly we see the global markets recover. Keep in mind that currently, your Social Security grows at approximately 8 percent for every year you delay until age 70. That may change as the government wraps its mind around the impact of recent events on the Social Security system, but for now, I’d keep an open mind regarding which path to take. Work with a certified financial planner to run scenarios that use different modeling specific to your own complete financial situation before you decide.
Voisin: I might add that 4 percent is an old “rule of thumb” and that anyone’s withdrawal rate is very specific to their assets and spending levels.
Retirement Rants and Raves
Your thoughts: How have you been financially impacted by the coronavirus? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Coronavirus Impact” in the subject line. I’m also interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. You can rant or rave. In the subject line, put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”